Courtesy Washington State University
When stakeholders meet with candidates for the next dean of Washington State University’s agricultural college, they want to find the right fit, they say.
The four candidates for dean at WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences will visit Washington the weeks of Nov. 27 and Dec. 4.
Dan Bernardo, provost at WSU and former CAHNRS dean, said he is excited about the “depth and breadth” of the candidate pool.
This is the second round of interviews for the position this year. Bernardo previously announced in June that he would not extend an offer to a single candidate who interviewed for dean, electing to begin the search again in the fall.
“As I regularly tell people, a failed search is not defined as not making a hire,” he told the Capital Press. “We want to make sure we get the right person, and I think we have four people here who are all very capable and qualified.”
The four candidates are:
• Gregory Lardy, currently associate vice president for agricultural affairs at North Dakota State University.
• André-Denis Wright, currently an endowed professor and director of the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arizona.
• Gary Thompson, currently associate dean for research and graduate education, and director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station in the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
• John Kirby, currently dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension at the University of Rhode Island.
The candidates will speak during presentations on the Pullman campus, and tour WSU centers in Wenatchee and Mount Vernon.
“We feel it’s really important that they see the scope of the activity at WSU within this college and they have the opportunity to visit with our stakeholders in various locations,” Bernardo said. “The needs of our stakeholders can differ significantly across the state.”
“All of them are excellent candidates, it’s really going to come down to which one is right,” said Jay Gordon, policy director of the Washington State Dairy Federation and a member of the search committee. “I don’t think any of them are wrong.”
Gordon believes having the dean in place will help ease some uncertainty at WSU in recent years, including the death of former president Elson Floyd in 2015.
Current CAHNRS dean Ron Mittelhammer did a great job, he said, but always meant to serve for a relatively short time. Mittelhammer was appointed interim dean in 2013 and dean for a two-year term in 2014, replacing Bernardo, who left to become interim provost in 2013 and then took the position permanently in 2014.
“Getting a captain on the ship really would be a huge help,” Gordon said. “You need a permanent dean who can say, ‘OK, I’m going to make some really tough decisions, I’m going to go listen to folks, I’m going to go see what course we need to chart.’”
“The dean’s position is really important,” said Mike Willett, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and a member of the search committee. “The stakeholder groups I represent are heavily invested in and look to CAHNRS for high levels of support to ensure people’s success in these agricultural endeavors.”
Meeting with the finalists will provide the most “robust” process to determine the best fit, Willett said.
“I think the candidates are exceptional this time around,” said Mike Miller, chairman of the Washington Grain Commission and a member of the committee. “For whatever reasons, this second spin of the wheel has really paid off, and, hopefully, there will be one in place soon.”
Bernardo said he hopes to make an offer to a candidate before Christmas. When the person starts depends on the candidate’s schedule, he said, noting they won’t necessarily want to leave their current institutions in the lurch.
“We need the right person, we obviously would like to have them here sooner rather than later, but we’re not going to make that a point that would negate somebody from consideration.”